During Earth Day this year, Etihad Airways operated a flight from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane without any single-use plastics on board – the longest plastic-free flight in history, in a bid to raise awareness of the effects of plastic pollution.
The milestone flight was part of Etihad’s ongoing commitment to the environment, to go beyond Earth Day celebrations, and pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage by 80 per cent not just in-flight, but across the entire organisation by the end of 2022.
Etihad identified over 95 single-use plastic products are used across its aircraft cabins. Once removed from the Earth Day flight, Etihad prevented over 50kg of plastics from being landfilled.
Guests on board enjoyed replacement products including sustainable amenity kits, award-winning eco-thread blankets made out of recycled plastic bottles, tablet toothpaste and edible coffee cups, while children were treated to eco-plush toys. Even creative measures like edible coffee cups made out of natural grain products were being explored as part of Etihad’s green push.
The changes will also extend beyond what passengers will see on flights, including reducing plastic water bottles in facility break rooms, and working with organisations like the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi on initiatives like a marine environment clean-up.
Mohamed Mubarak Fadhel Al Mazrouei, chairman of Etihad, said the flight is an important part of Etihad’s environmental efforts.
“Inaugurating 2019 with the locally-sourced biofuel flight and the operation of the longest single-use plastic-free flight are testament to our commitment to leading effective change towards sustainability,” he continued.
As a result of planning the Earth Day flight, Etihad additionally committed to remove up to 20 per cent of the single-use plastic items on board by June 1, 2019. By the end of this year, Etihad will have removed 100 tonnes of single-use plastics from its in-flight service.
Other airlines have also recently made moves to reduce single-use plastics use within its operations. In May 2018, Alaska Airlines decided to replace all plastic straws and citrus picks with more eco-friendly alternatives. In July, American Airlines started to use biodegradable, eco-friendly stir sticks on board and in lounges instead.
Within our own region, Qantas and Jetstar have committed to reduce landfill waste by 70 per cent, while Air New Zealand have announced its plan to extend on its eco-friendly policy, with the airline getting rid of single-plastic products across its domestic services over the next 12 months.